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Things worth worrying about

The Large Hadron, you may remember, is the 17-mile-long particle accelerator being built near Geneva. Once it’s up and running, its designers believe it will take particle physics research to a whole new level. Its critics think it may create a black hole that will swallow up the universe. This is what is known as a wide range of possibilities.

I am bringing this up now because it is always important to remember that things could be worse. You may be worried about a new cold war or a major bank failure, or afraid of losing your job or your house or your credit rating. You may be depressed by your first look at the fall TV schedule.

Whatever your concerns, it is important, in these dark moments, to remember that other people have been having a worse summer than you. To name just a few: John Edwards, the mayor of Detroit and all the people involved in the making of “The Love Guru.”

Perspective is all. If you’re going to fret, I say, fret about that black hole. For one thing, it makes it much easier to schedule unpleasant tasks for the second half of September. Heads, the planet survives. Tails, the root canal never happens.

– Gail Collins, “Digging Ourselves A Black Hole“, NYT, 23 Aug 2008

other people's words
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The Bank Of Zippy

I’m not much for proselytizing, but this is a pretty great thing that I think most of the people (all 6 of you) that read this blog would be interested in…

Yes, that’s right, people, we are now open for business here at the Bank of Zippy. Get your microfinance loans here today!

Maybe some background would help: A friend of mine recently brought to my attention a website called kiva.org. The site basically links funding sources (that’s me) all the way through a tangle of connections to individual entrepreneurs in the third world.

This is starting to sound like some sort of spam email…let me start again.

Here are four people:

Nasihat Toshmatova Hafiz Allah Tahar Nighat Bibi’<p>s Group Mohamad Maki

You can read more about each of them by clicking on their picture.

For example, Nasihat (on the far left) was looking for a loan to invest in her fruit and vegetable stall in the market in the Asht region of Tajikistan.

Next to her is Hafiz, who lives in Kabul in Afghanistan. He’s starting a little grocery store to make money to care for his wife and child. His loan request was posted to the kiva.org site on Mar 11. By March 14 it had been funded by donors ($25 from the Bank of Zippy!). On March 15 (that was yesterday), in the 15th district of Kabul, he got his money in the form of an 18 month loan.

Then there’s the group of women in Pakistan and the 22 year-old guy from southern Lebanon.

They are all now in my loan “portfolio”, which was pulled from some money I had stashed in my Paypal account. Today I got an email that said that Nasihat got her money ($25 more from the bank of Zippy). She’ll be paying it back monthly and in 9 months I’ll have my money back and she and her three kids will be better off because of it. As time passes, I’ll get updates on how things are going with each of the four loan recipients. How great is that!

I feel like I’m sounding a little like an infomercial here, but I’m just trying to say that this is pretty cool and it seems like an amazingly simple way to have a profound impact on someone’s life. You can find out more here.

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Turkey, Stuffing, and Dutch Blitz

…and a lot of lounging around.  It was fun. There are a few pictures here

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A Strange Tour

I have been fortunate enough to travel fairly regularly over the past few years. Enough so, in fact, that I have pretty much given up on buying souvenirs. There are only so many places in one house that you can put little useless knickknacks. The wooden giraffe goes on the windowsill. The tiny little painted box from Russia (too small to hold anything) goes on the bookshelf. The orthodox icon from Romania next to the Russian box.

Quite a while ago, I started dealing with this problem by collecting small rocks or handfuls of sand. This seemed like a better way to remember the place, especially considering my accessory interest in geology. I’ve developed a pretty good collection by now which represents some of the places I’ve visited, although not all (the pebble I grabbed from inside the Great Pyramid in Giza has somehow gone missing — I’m trying to decide if I should be worried about this — and I have nothing from my several trips to South America).

All of this has resulted in a shelf full of baby food jars containing sand, which you are welcome to examine if you ever come over to my house, which leads me to the geeky part of this post. Last night I was playing around with Google Earth (rapid travel! no pesky jetlag!) and made up a partial list of the locations where I’ve gathered samples (yes, for many of these I also gathered GPS coordinates — how embarrassing).

So, while this may not be at all interesting to anyone else, I am presenting today the Google Earth file (download Google Earth here) which will allow you to tour along with me to a few places in the world which have been significant to me and from which I have brought home a small piece. So I present to you, the Sand Tour (make sure your “Terrain” option is turned on).

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Antlers and Bon Jovi

panzio.jpgSpotty internet and a tight schedule have kept me from writing here, but this morning I am compelled to use a few moments while at breakfast…

We are in Hungary now, and have been for a week, with a short jaunt into Serbia. The town is called Zalaegerszeg, which is fun to say – “zalla egg er zeg”. I’m sitting drinking a mean cup of coffee in the dining room of our panzio, which is a cross between a motel and a bed and breakfast, or in this case a hunting lodge. We’ve got antlers on the wall, Bon Jovi “Living On A Prayer” playing on the radio, and wireless internet at the breakfast table. How great is that?

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Traveling: Russia

I’ve been on the road again for the past week and a half. Not that you would have noticed from my track record here. But I’m spending two weeks in Russia and then another in Hungary. I have not had much access to the internet while here, so I haven’t been able to post, but I hope that will change before long. In any case, hello from St. Petersburg.

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Life Can Go On Now…

…I’ve finished Harry Potter 7.

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Zippy 2.0

As you can see, I’ve changed the blog software. Woohoo, it’s a good day.If you’d like to see the content of the previous version of Zippy, you can still visit at http://www.peterschrock.com/zippy1/notes.html.

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